US rejects UN suggestion its Syria air strikes could constitute ‘war crimes’

The UN Commission of Inquiry pointed to a series of air strikes carried out by the coalition in January in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 September 2019

US rejects UN suggestion its Syria air strikes could constitute ‘war crimes’

  • The Commission has also repeatedly accused the Syrian government and its main backer Russia, as well as other actors in the conflict of a wide range of war crimes
  • Numerous rounds of UN-led peace talks have failed to end a war that has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions

GENEVA: Washington’s top envoy for Syria rejected Thursday an allegation put forward in a UN report that some US-led air strikes in the conflict-torn country could possibly be categorized as indiscriminate attacks, amounting to “war crimes.”
James Jeffrey, the US special representative on Syria, dismissed findings published in a UN report on Wednesday suggesting that the US-led coalition had with a number of air strikes in the country “failed to employ the necessary precautions to discriminate adequately between military objectives and civilians.”
The UN Commission of Inquiry, which has been investigating human rights violations in Syria’s drawn-out war for the past eight years, pointed to a series of air strikes carried out by the coalition in January in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, including one that killed 16 civilians.
“The Commission finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that international coalition forces may not have directed their attacks at a specific military objective, or failed to do so with the necessary precaution,” the report said.
“Launching indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amounts to a war crime in cases in which such attacks are conducted recklessly,” stressed the Commission, which has also suggested in previous reports that US-led strikes in Syria could amount to war crimes.
The Commission has also repeatedly accused the Syrian government and its main backer Russia, as well as other actors in the conflict of a wide range of war crimes.
“We take extreme care in every military operation,” Jeffrey told journalists in Geneva when asked about the report.
“We do not accept the findings of that particular body,” he said.
Jeffrey was in Geneva Wednesday for consultations with the UN envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen.
Pedersen, a seasoned Norwegian diplomat who took over the job in January, is trying to help create a committee to draft a post-war constitution for Syria.
His predecessor, Staffan de Mistura, stepped down after his four years in the post ended with a year-long abortive push to form the constitutional committee.
But Pedersen, who has been consulting extensively with the various Syrian actors, as well as with countries with influence in the conflict, voiced optimism that the constitutional committee could soon see the light of day.
Following his meeting with representatives from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States Thursday, he told journalists he was “confident that we are moving forward.
“Hopefully I can have positive news on this in the very near future.”
Numerous rounds of UN-led peace talks have failed to end a war that has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.


Morocco reimposes Tangiers lockdown after virus spike

Updated 13 July 2020

Morocco reimposes Tangiers lockdown after virus spike

RABAT: Morocco on Monday announced a return to lockdown measures in the northern port city of Tangiers to smother a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus, weeks after easing nationwide restrictions.
The city of about a million inhabitants was locked down from Monday at noon local time, with public transport suspended, cafes and public spaces closed and movement restricted.
Residents are only allowed to leave their homes “in cases of extreme necessity,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement, adding that “exceptional authorization from local authorities” would be required for movement within or beyond the city.
Authorities decided to reimpose the measures to “prevent the spread of the virus” after “new infection clusters” appeared, it said.
The northern city, within sight of the Spanish coast on a clear day, has a vast port and is a key economic hub linking Africa with Europe and beyond.
Morocco had imposed strict nationwide lockdown measures after recording its first COVID-19 cases in March.
It began easing them in June and has since reopened cafes and restaurants, allowing domestic visitors to restart its vital tourism sector.
Its borders remain closed until further notice, except to Moroccans and residents abroad, who will be able to return from Tuesday onwards.
But despite masks being mandatory in public, new localized outbreaks of the disease have forced the shutdown of several cities.
An outbreak at a fish canning factory prompted authorities to lock down Safi, a town of 300,000 on the Atlantic coast, in early July.
The kingdom, with a population of 34 million, has recorded over 15,000 infections including 253 deaths.